Usually getting started is the easiest part. You have a primary message you want to convey, you go with that, and then you let all the other stuff build a wall around it.
I couldn't figure out how to start this post about tomorrow's massive game against Florida State, so I'm choosing to go with an honest admission: I am tired of writing "hype" pieces centered around what an upcoming victory would mean for the long and short-term status of Louisville football. I'm tired of writing those and then never getting to see how well the vision ultimately paired up with the realization.
For the past two years we've talked about Louisville football finally having a seat at the grown-ups table and being able to shed the "scrappy overachiever" label it had grown so accustomed to. It was an understandable thing to be excited about, and I think the benefits of our newfound status have been on full display since last Friday night.
Four years ago, a pair of routs against overmatched opponents fueled by a superstar quarterback would have drawn little more than schedule criticisms and questions about the team's ability to sustain focus. We know that for a fact because we lived it.
This week, however, has been a complete deviation from what any of us have seen since whenever we began following Louisville football. The Cardinals jumped five and three spots to move into the top 10 of both major polls. Lamar Jackson is being touted as the Heisman Trophy front-runner by just about every outlet that chooses to cover that sort of thing in mid-September. U of L has been featured or discussed on national television seemingly every 15 minutes, and ESPN's "College GameDay" is in town for the first time ever.
It's what we've always dreamed of. Or at least, it's the precursor to what we've always dreamed of.
Earning a seat at the grown-ups table is a momentous occasion, but only because it makes a grander reality possible. Being at the table gives you a voice in the greater conversation, and having a voice in the greater conversation makes it possible to one day sit in the table's most distinguished seat.
Louisville hasn't done all that much talking in its first two years of the great dialogue. On the rare occasion that the Cards have spoken, their comments have resonated only with those seated close by.
A lot of people this week have talked about where a win over Florida State on Saturday would rank in terms of all-time significance for the program. It's one of those unanswerable questions that's best-digested over two or three hours of sports talk radio. Putting things in a historical context immediately after they take place is always an inherently flawed task. Attempting to do the same thing before the event in question has even take place is both inherently flawed and impossible.
Here's what I will say, though: A win over Florida State on Saturday would be unique to any other Louisville has ever earned.
Think about the biggest wins in Cardinal football history. None of them provided U of L with the same types of accolades and opportunities that a win Saturday would.
In 1991, Louisville made an audible statement of existence when it pounded storied Alabama 34-7 in the Fiesta Bowl. As many have pointed out, though, that Crimson Tide team finished the season just 7-5, and only wound up playing in the game after other programs had declined due to the controversy surrounding the state of Arizona's rejection of Martin Luther King Day.
U of L spoke up again in 2002 when it stunned fourth-ranked Florida State on a rainy Thursday night at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The field storming that night was the only euphoric moment of a season where the Cards -- who already had two losses heading into the game -- wound up with an average record in an average conference.
The two BCS wins in 2007 and 2013 were Louisville's first taste of the sport's brightest stage, and the latter still likely holds the earned distinction of being the biggest win in school history. The Florida victory will always be special because the Cardinals took down a national championship-caliber team at the end of the season in a David vs. Goliath situation. Still, it's worth remembering that even though David took down Goliath in front of the entire college football world, he still finished behind the big guy in the final national rankings.
The game that Saturdays is drawing the most comparisons to is the 2006 showdown with West Virginia, which featured the unbeaten No. 3 and No. 5 teams in the country playing in early November. While that victory might have set U of L on a collision course with its first national title game appearance, it also held some intrinsic differences to the tilt we're less than 24 hours away from watching.
Fairly or unfairly, the Big East was a stigmatized conference. Before that game even started, the college football powers that be were looking for ways to devalue whatever was going to take place. As the contest was played, people mocked the turnovers and the lack of defense, and made ridiculous claims that the loser of Ohio State/Michigan three weeks later was still more worthy of a championship game appearance than an unbeaten Cardinal squad.
If Louisville takes down Florida State on ABC Saturday afternoon, there will be no questions of validity, there will be no talk of a monumental upset, and there will be no talk of the triumph being "a sign of greater things to come."
One win on Saturday, and U of L immediately finds itself at the forefront of the great conversation. The Cardinals will be considered, without argument, a legitimate national title contender with a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate playing the sport's most important position. It's a scenario that none of us have ever experienced before, a dream that four solid quarters of football could unlock for the first time.
My advice all week long on the radio has been to soak up all the hoopla, digest all the pomp and circumstance that comes hand-in-hand with a week like this. You always want to enjoy the ride when there's no set timeframe for when you're going to be able to get back on. Now that the ride is slowing down and kickoff is in sight, just how unwilling I am to hop off is starting to set in.
It's time to make the turn we've never made before and see where this thing goes. It's time to stay on the ride even after being told we have to get off. It's time to keep talking even after we've been told we have to shut up.
Go Louisville, beat Florida State.